By: Corbin McGuire, Editor-in-Chief
Bellarmine University officials recently announced that the school is at the beginning of a rezoning process with the Louisville Metro Government to develop an 11-acre sports facility about two miles south of campus, at Newburg Road and Champions Trace lane.
“If our rezoning effort is successful, we’ll embark upon a fundraising campaign to build and operate a facility that includes locker rooms and athletic office space, an indoor field house, some outdoor sports courts and a stadium that would seat approximately 2,500,” said Bellarmine Director of Media Relations and Social Networking Jason Cissell. “The facility would also include several hundred parking spaces.”
It is no question that the university is in a period of great growth and renewal and with this has come conversation of not just a sports facility but also a football team to use it.
“Bellarmine is reviewing the possibility of adding an intercollegiate football program. If we add that sport, that team would train and play at this proposed facility,” said Cissell.
Although it is important to note that this will be no fast process.
“We’ve kind of slowed [football] down. I’m not saying that it’s not going to happen, but we’re trying to see where we are and study it a little bit,” Interim President Dr. Doris Tegart said.
Cissell said the facility is not dependent on the decision of whether or not to add the new sport.
“Regardless of whether or not we decide to add a football program, we know that we need additional training and game space for our intercollegiate athletic programs, and also for our intramural and club sports,” Cissell said. “We’re developing this facility off campus because there’s really no suitably flat, undeveloped land remaining on campus for this purpose.”
While the road to a football team at Bellarmine looks long, plans for the new facility are moving relatively fast. In late March, a public meeting to review Bellarmine’s plans with the proposed site’s residential and commercial neighbors was held.
Cissell said the people, who would be directly impacted by redevelopment of the space, were generally receptive to the plan.
“While the homeowners had some follow-up questions that will be addressed one-on-one, they were very open to the idea,” said Cissell. “There was nobody that stood up and said, ‘I don’t want to see this happen.’”
While community members support the idea, some students have raised concerns.
“Personally, I don’t really care for the new sports facility. I think our time and resources can be used better and I don’t like the idea of Bellarmine expanding so much,” junior Ashlee Wells said. “I came to Bellarmine because it was small.”
However, Bellarmine’s administration contends that even as Bellarmine grows it will not lose its small, college feel.
“We will always keep our eye on the faculty-to-student ratio. We do look at classroom capacity and that’s one of the reasons for Centro,” Tegart said.
Tegart said that right now, the No. 1 priority is finishing up the construction on Centro, the university’s new $25 million, three-story building in front of Horrigan Hall that includes faculty offices, classrooms and gathering spaces for students.
Even with such spaces coming together on campus, students recognize other areas for improvement.
“There are a lot of improvements we need, such as more parking, more housing or university-linked off campus housing or even an improved rec center for non-athletes,” senior Kayla Stephenson said. We’re only D-II. It’s not like we’re trying to compete with Ohio State or UofL, but the students who aren’t athletes deserve improvements, too.”
With so many students talking about the possibility of a sports facility off-campus, Tegart wants students to know that she hears them.
“We listen to students and we try to keep relevant in our area,” Tegart said. “It looks like we might need a new residence hall and I know we need a new SuRF center.”
In contrast, some Bellarmine students are avid supporters of the idea and the revenue it could potentially bring in.
“Athletics puts Bellarmine on the map. I was out of town and somebody saw my Bellarmine sweatshirt and they immediately commented on our basketball team,” junior Lauren Troxell said. “If a bigger sports complex brings more people to BU, it’ll bring more money, more regional recognition and more fans. I love my university and if funneling money into athletics brings other people to it, I’m all for it.”
New facilities would not be built with student tuition.
“A lot of it would be built by fundraising,” Tegart said. “And sometimes, particularly if it’s revenue-generating, we can do some borrowing. It’s just different for each project.”
This large amount of growth both on, and potentially off, campus has created a stir in the Bellarmine student body, but for Bellarmine, it’s one step closer to where many schools have been for years.
“Bellarmine isn’t the only school that is facing this. I absolutely understand why the push for bigger and better things is important to the administration-when the other small schools are also making things bigger and better, you really have no choice if you want your university to continue thriving,” Stephenson said.
For now, no cost estimates have been decided and the choice to begin any new sport on campus will remain the decision of the University’s board of trustees.